Sense of a Scene: The Marriage Story- The 'Paah' scene from Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom
In this conversation, director Balaji Tharaneetharan talks about the rib-tickling reception sequence in his Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom
"We made Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom with very grounded expectations. I hadn't worked as an AD under any director, all the actors except Vijay Sethupathi were facing the camera for the first time. So, we didn't anticipate the film would become a hit and the reception scene would become this popular.
The 'Paah yaar ra indha ponnu pei madhri iruku?' dialogue wasn't there in the first version of the script. When I was narrating the story to the producer, I explained the scene like, 'Hero thirumbi andha ponna parthu paah nu sollitan' and the producer started laughing really hard on hearing this. Every time I said this, he couldn't control his laughter, so I thought I must rewrite the dialogue.
Every department complemented the scene in their own way. For instance, the editor Govindaraj live-edited the film and he pointed out that the excessive makeup on Gayathrie had faded away and she actually looks pretty in the closeup shot, rather than being scary. I took his suggestion and reshot it the next day.
Since this sequence was very crucial for the film, I had planned even minute details like the entry, exit, and proximity of the various characters to Vijay Sethupathi's Prem. Some even questioned how a groom, who is the centre of attraction, could escape notice from the crowd for his odd behaviour. But, I am a person who believes that reality is more interesting than cinema and I make sure that all my scenes have a bit of realism.
We had planned it to be a normal middle-class reception. But, due to certain budget constraints, we had to cut back on the production value. The bright side of such small budget films is that all the actors are newbies and we had all the time in the world for script-reading and rehearsing scenes. We had done a 4-5 day rehearsal for the entire mandabam sequence, and in fact, we did the same for the rest of the scenes too. Spending time on pre-production helped me reduce the time taken on the sets and bring out the best out of all the actors.
A few had asked me about the liberal length of the comical portions in my films. Honestly speaking, I am always worried if my comical portions will work for the audience. Be it this sequence or the park scene in Seethakathi, I always let the scene dictate its own length. The script-reading and rehearsal sessions help me make the right decisions for the scene.
In reality, Prem, the cinematographer of NKPK (whose true story the film is based on), regained his memory six days before the wedding. Apart from the four of us, no one knew about his accident. Only when we decided to make his story as a film, did we tell Prem's wife what really happened. She was so shocked on hearing this and actually saw us as fraudsters for a while (laughs). His parents became very emotional on seeing the film. Comedy scene ku laam emotion aagi aludhutanga... as it was based on their son's illness.
Bagavathy Perumal, was the only one from our gang who played himself in the film. Many said that it would have been so easy for him as he just had to repeat what he did in real life. But, none realised that the film was written from my perspective and everything was different for him. Initially, he found it a bit odd, to see himself being projected differently from what he thinks he is. But after a few days, he took it sportively and fit in perfectly with my vision.
The backstory which Saras tells Bhajji about their friendship is actually taken from my life. People become friends for the silliest of reasons. I found my best friend when he sat next to me in first standard and gave me a toy to play with. Another friend of mine drew the diagrams in my record and this made me like him more. I used this reference for the story. Similarly, Vijay Sethupathi's best friend is someone who used to play cricket with him during school. Once Vijay became thirsty and asked his friend to get some water, but he bought him cold drinks instead. This simple act made Vijay love him a lot. Only recently, this friend revealed that he did that only because he was too lazy to climb the stairs to get water (laughs).
Vijay Sethupathi is an easily mouldable actor. He can pull off Prem even now. He only has to lose some kilos to look the part. His biggest plus is that he hasn't got trapped into the image of a mass star. Things would have been different if he had projected himself as a star and did only masala films. But, he keeps surprising the audience with films like 96 and Super Deluxe, which are character-oriented. Oru vattathukkulla maattama thappichukitte irukkaru. I am not sure whether this is a positive for Sethupathi, the star, but it's undoubtedly a huge boon for Sethupathi, the actor."
(As told to Navein Darshan)